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Turning

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Turning
Directed by Charles Atlas
Opens November 16, IFC Center

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A deceptively modest, multifaceted look at performance and the performative nature of gender, Charles Atlas and Antony's film Turning intercuts numbers from their eponymous multimedia show with behind-the-scenes glimpses and interview snippets with 13 women who served as models in the act. "Turning" the stage show features Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) emoting in his shimmering alto voice, while behind him his orchestral group plays, Atlas bombards the backdrop with a light show, and the models take their turns strutting their stuff. Befitting the lyrical content of many of Antony's songs, as well as his semi-androgynous look, the women, each of whom here gets a couple of minutes to tell her story, all defy easy gender categorization. Identifying as transsexual or lesbian or not choosing to identify at all, the models all relate their often painful stories of growing up different while describing the way in which performing onstage allows them to fully express their sense of womanhood. None of these stories are long enough to grant any individual depth to the teller, but as a whole and in conjunction with the concert snippets, they give an impressionistic glimpse of a performance and the people behind who forge it, no matter how often Atlas's glib multiple-exposure visual concoctions threaten to get in the way. Andrew Schenker

 
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